Meditation promises a wide range of benefits. Physical effects like lower blood pressure and increased energy, mental improvements like more happiness and less anxiety, and even spiritual changes like more gratitude and personal transformation – all these are said to come from meditation.
To a beginner, meditation can feel less like a path to higher states of being and more like sitting around feeling bored. You can sit, you can breathe, you can try to hear one hand clapping. How do you know you are doing it correctly? Starting out at meditation can feel frustrating, not calming.
One answer to the difficulties of learning to meditate is the Muse 2 headband from Muse. It promises to measure physical signals and give you feedback on how well (or poorly) you are meditating.
How the Muse 2 Works
The Muse 2 is a headband with several biosensors. You wear it on your forehead while you meditate, and it measures your body’s responses. The sensors track:
- Brain activity
- Heart rate and blood oxygen
- Stillness or motion
- Breathing speed and depth
The headband syncs with your phone via Bluetooth. The Muse app on your phone receives the data and provides you with sound cues to show when your meditation is going well or poorly. Muse claims that the feedback you get helps you meditate better.
The app includes several different modes. It tracks everything at once but only gives feedback for one system per session. You choose whether you want to track mind, heart, breathing, or stillness while you meditate. Muse will tell you when the activity you chose is going well or getting off course. You are supposed to fix it, improving your meditation.
Advantages of the Muse 2
- Makes it easy to feel when meditation goes off-course
- Users report that it leads to a quick improvement in the quality of meditation
- Once you get the hang of meditation with the Muse 2, you get good results even if you don’t have it
Disadvantages of the Muse 2
- Cost – meditation is free. The Muse 2 is not
- Bringing in a gadget and smartphone adds complexity to an activity that is supposed to be simple
- The sounds used for feedback strike some people as weird new-age schtick
The Company Behind the Muse Headbands
The Muse 2 is made by InteraXon, a Canadian company that makes brain-sensing equipment. Their Muse product line consists of three headbands. Besides the Muse 2, they make the less complicated Muse headband and the soft Muse S. They also make the meditation and mindfulness app that runs the Muse 2.
Muse exists only to promote brainwave monitoring and improve meditation. That’s it. Besides the meditation training app, Muse headbands are also sold to brain researchers and therapists.
Researchers like the headband and app because it provides high-quality medical data. Muse 2 is an excellent way for them to track what’s going on inside a research subject’s brain and capture the data.
Therapists use it as a teaching tool to enhance therapy. Patients can try out various treatments and get real-time feedback on the impact each practice has on their body.
Muse 2 Technology
The Muse 2 uses the same brainwave-sensing tech that hospitals and scientists have used for years. Like so many other electronic devices, these sensors have gotten smaller and cheaper as the tech has improved. Smaller, more affordable tech opens the door to retail sales. At the same time, Bluetooth and smartphones give consumers the power to control it at their fingers.
The app guides you through meditation sessions. This isn’t new technology – mindfulness instructors have been doing that for hundreds of years. The app reads the signals from the headband and adjusts the guidance to help you. It also plays sounds on a spectrum to help you know how you are doing.
The sound spectrum works like this. Say you selected weather sounds for your meditation session. Deep meditation sounds like light rain, while an active, confused mind sounds like a thunderstorm. The idea is that hearing the thunder tells you that your thoughts are wandering so you can fix it.
Is it Safe?
The tech used in the Muse 2 isn’t new. It’s been used in hospitals for years, and you can trust that it won’t do any harm. The Muse 2 isn’t medically certified, but it works the same way as hospital-grade devices.
Where to Buy the Muse 2
Muse 2 is widely available. You can get it directly from InteraXon at their website, or order from Amazon. Make sure to download the free app, too. The headband won’t work without the app. You can also get additional guided meditation routines for an annual subscription, but you don’t have to.
Is the Muse 2 Worth It?
On the one hand, people have been learning to meditate for centuries without apps or brain sensors. Nearly everyone who has learned to meditate has learned it by sitting still and meditating. Many people pay for coaching, but just as many have learned to meditate for free. If you want to meditate more, but aren’t that serious, skip the Muse 2 and just meditate.
On the other hand, it’s easy to make rapid progress using Muse 2. Someone who needs to master meditation in a hurry – for example, someone who needs to control panic attacks or relieve ultra-high stress – could really benefit from the Muse 2. If tension or anxiety are controlling your life, the feedback from the Muse 2 could literally be a lifesaver.